When current North Las Vegas mayor John Lee was diagnosed with a rare type of nasal cancer in 2007, the prognosis was not good. According to the American Cancer Society, only 35 percent of patients diagnosed with this type of cancer live five years past their initial diagnosis.
Now Mayor Lee lives not just to serve his beloved city and hometown, but to give it the second chance he has been given.
His Apex Industrial Park pet project has several tenants, including Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer Faraday Future, the Elon Musk-backed Hyperloop One transportation startup and several large-scale medical marijuana operations.
Further down the road, the once-defunct Park Highlands West and Villages at Tule Springs developments have sprung back to life, like desert blooms after a rare rain. As operations in Apex kick into full swing, employees will be able to live in these developments’ 10,000 plus homes, with prices ranging from the modest to the extravagant.
All around them, Mayor Lee and his staff see the fruits of their tireless labor giving the city financial stability, economic diversification and, eventually, prosperity. This zeal for renewed life reflects Mayor Lee’s own personal philosophical reinvention following his near-death and improbable rise to lead a desert city back from the brink.
A City Nearly Tagged and Bagged
Like Mayor Lee, North Las Vegas had a bad prognosis a few years back.
The City of North Las Vegas went from having the fastest growth in the country in 2003 to leading the nation in percentage of homes in foreclosure by 2011.
In 2012, North Las Vegas had to declare a fiscal emergency under the leadership of former mayor Shari Buck. If things continued,, the city would have entered state receivership, allowing the Nevada Department of Taxation to assume control of local government financial decisions.
in July 2013, Mayor John Jay Lee assumed office under these dire conditions. Despite the city’s lack of prospects, he decided to pursue an ambitious and optimistic path towards not just solvency, but self-sufficiency.
“If you look at all the things that aren’t right first, it makes it harder to believe,” Mayor Lee told the Las Vegas Sun in regards to his approach to revitalizing the city. “But if you look at the things that are right first and then you see some of the bad that would have you doubt it, you might be more apt to think that the doubting side is probably correct. So dwell on the good.”
Using this philosophy, Mayor John Lee and others were able to convince Brian Sandoval to stave off the state takeover.
Then, together, Lee and his staff crafted an ambitious plan for attracting developers and businesses to North Las Vegas. Their aim was to prevent the conditions that led to the city’s rapid decline. By creating stable jobs in the city itself, City Hall could reinforce their economy against unexpected pitfalls like the 2009 housing crisis.
“To see what (North Las Vegas) is today is completely jaw-dropping,” expressed North Las Vegas native Shavon McLean. “It just feels kind of like I’m in a different location.”
Thanks to the hard work of Mayor John Lee and others, North Las Vegas has become a model for attracting large-scale enterprises through substantial tax incentive plans, enthralling visions of the future and no small amount of personal legwork. As the city enters its new phase of life and Mayor Lee enjoys his ninth year from almost-certain death, “hope” seems like the right kind of four letter word after all.